March 9, 2023

Sitrep for Mar. 8-9 (as of 3:00 p.m.) 

Massive missile attack of the territory of Ukraine

On the morning of Mar. 9, the RuAF struck civilian targets (including energy infrastructure) on the territory of Ukraine using a large number of different missiles for the first time since Feb. 18.

There were explosions in the cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv, as well as in Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa, Lviv, and other regions. Reportedly, only Russian Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic aero-ballistic air-to-surface missiles, which hit an energy facility, were able to overcome the air defense systems around Kyiv, while cruise missiles and drones were intercepted. Kharkiv was also hit with missiles, including S-300 air defense system guided ones. Five people were killed as a result of missile strikes on residential buildings in the Zolochiv district of the Lviv region, according to the Head of the Regional Military Administration, Maksym Kozytskyy. One person was also killed in the Dnipropetrovsk region. Rescuers continue clearing the rubble.

The RuAF launched a total of 81 missiles of various types. According to the Commander in Chief of the AFU Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the following missiles were used: Kh-101 / Kh-555 (28 missiles), 3M-54 Kalibr (20 missiles), Kh-47M2 Kinzhal (6 missiles — an unprecedented number, according to Spokesman of the Air Force Command of the AFU Yuriy Ihnat), and Kh-22 (6 missiles). Iranian Shahed-131/136 kamikaze drones were also used.

There were blackouts in a number of regions. In our opinion, with the onset of spring, missile attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure have completely lost any value.

The Russian Defense Ministry stated that this missile attack on military targets was an act of retaliation for the terrorist attack in the Bryansk region, and it targeted drone bases. Besides, as a result of the strike, the RuAF allegedly managed to disrupt the transfer of Western military vehicles to the frontline.

Furthermore, Kherson was hit. As a result of a strike on civil infrastructure, including a bus stop, three civilians were killed.

Situation on the front line

On all parts of the front beside the Bakhmut direction, the situation is stable.

In the southern areas of Bakhmut, Russian forces have made small advances, but they were pushed back to the north-western areas near Khromove village. Thus, the road there became a little safer for Ukrainian forces. A video appeared showing the 93rd Brigade of the AFU crossing a temporary bridge that was laid by a bridge-laying vehicle instead of the destroyed bridge in Khromove. A destroyed BMP infantry fighting vehicle can be seen behind the bridge.

When crossing a portion of the road that is exposed to enemy fire, it is vital to move as fast as possible. But it is impossible to move fast on dirt roads, and it is unsafe to cross a temporary bridge at higher velocity; both factors dramatically increase the risk to Ukrainian soldiers’ lives.

Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, has visited Bakhmut one more time and awarded the soldiers. We have no doubts that the visit truly took place. Even though such visits are exceedingly dangerous, it is possible to arrange them with extreme precautions (it is worth reminding that Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russian oligarch, the confidant of Vladimir Putin, and owner of the Wagner Group, has visited Bakhmut numerous times).

Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg stated before a meeting with EU defense ministers that the fall of Bakhmut in the coming days could not be ruled out, but it would not be a turning point in the war. He also urged not to underestimate Russia and to continue supporting Ukraine.

Russian forces continue to hit Avdiivka with air-dropped bombs. Note that earlier pro-Russian Telegram channels claimed that guided bombs were used, but after the Ukrainian side published a video of an unexploded Russian FAB-500 M-62 unguided aerial bomb, their rhetoric changed, and now they are talking about unguided bombs. As a result of another strike (judging by the scale of destruction, it was an air-dropped bomb), a section of a residential building was destroyed: no one was injured (apparently, the building was evacuated).

The name of the executed Ukrainian soldier has been identified with a high probability. Oleksandr Matsievskyi, a soldier of the 163rd Battalion of the 119th Brigade of the Territorial Defense of the Chernihiv region, has been identified as the victim. On Dec. 30, 2022, on the outskirts of Soledar, he and four other soldiers engaged in combat with the enemy and were surrounded. After that, visual contact with him was lost (apparently, that is when he was executed).

Recall that initially, the mercenaries of the Wagner Group took part in the battles for Soledar (from May 2022, they began to advance towards Bakhmut after capturing Popasna), and the first paratroopers were deployed near Soledar around Jan. 10. Accordingly, if Matsievskyi was shot on Dec. 30, then the Wagner Group is responsible for that. He was buried on Feb. 14; his body was returned to Ukraine as a result of an exchange.

Opinions of pro-Russian Telegram channels about this video are different. Some of them, like Hard Ingush, Razvedos and others, believe that killing of an unarmed man is unworthy: this is what maniacs or cowards do. Others, including the Sabotage Assault Reconnaissance Group (DShRG) Rusich [an openly neo-Nazi Russian volunteer unit], are fully convinced of their own impunity: no one will condemn them for killing prisoners of war, and on the contrary, they will receive state awards.

On Mar. 8, the occupation authorities of Enerhodar reported that the city's waterfront was attacked with thermite incendiary munitions, which were dropped from drones. As a result, a fire broke out on an area of 4 hectares. The details of the incident are still unknown. Note that to start such a large fire with thermite incendiary munitions, one needs to hit an oil storage, a fuel tank or an ammunition depot with precision. Earlier, Russian forces had been firing with MLRS in the direction of Nikopol, so military equipment could have remained in the waterfront area.

Polish Minister of National Defense Mariusz Błaszczak said that Poland proceeds with creating a service hub for Ukrainian Leopard tanks. In particular, the problem of insufficient spare parts for the old modification of the Leopard 2A4, which has not been produced for the past 20 years, is being addressed. It is possible that at first a certain number of tanks would have to be cannibalized for spare parts. As reported, Poland transferred to Ukraine another 10 Leopard 2 tanks out of 14 promised. Also, the training of the Ukrainian soldiers in Poland to operate these tanks has been completed.

Poland and Slovakia agreed on the joint transfer of Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. Slovakia has 11 MiG-29 fighter jets, some of which were in operation until the summer of 2022.

A video by the World Congress of Ukrainians, an international non-governmental civil organization raising money to help Ukraine, has appeared. It purchased 25 demilitarized British Spartan armored personnel carriers and donated them to the 127th Territorial Defense Brigade in Kharkiv.

The Financial Times cites a letter from Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov to the European Union, in which he asks to send Ukraine 250,000 artillery shells a month. This significantly exceeds the plans currently being discussed and is not achievable at the moment. According to Reznikov, Ukraine fires an average of 110,000 155mm caliber shells a month (Russia fires four times more).

Yevgeny Prigozhin claims that the situation with ammunition for the Wagner Group has not improved. In addition, his secure communication phones have been disconnected in the offices, and his passes to government agencies have been revoked.

The government has rejected the pro-Kremlin Spravedlivaya Rossiya [A Just Russia] party's request to approve a bill legalizing the Wagner Group, citing that it contradicts Article 13 of the Russian Constitution, which prohibits the creation of armed formations.

Sky News, a UK TV channel, referring to a security source, reports that allegedly in January, 100 million small arms rounds and 300,000 artillery shells were delivered from the port of Amirabad (Iran) to the port of Astrakhan (Russia) by two Russian-flagged cargo ships. According to maritime shipping tracker MarineTraffic, such ships indeed moved from Iran to Astrakhan and back, but the list of cargo seems suspicious to us. Many of the calibers listed in it are not used by the Russian Army, have never been produced in Iran, or don’t exist at all. Over the past month, no foreign weapons or ammunition have appeared at the front. We fully allow for the transportation of any weapons between Iran and Russia across the Caspian Sea (for example, Shahed drones), but we doubt the supply of most, if not all, of the ammunition on this list.

The Bundeswehr announced the transfer of two more Gepard SPAAGs to Ukraine (now there will be 36 of them), two vehicles for border guards, and 13 more Biber armored bridge-laying vehicles (currently there are 7 of them).

A video of Russian MT-LB armored multi-purpose tractors with 25mm naval anti-aircraft guns has been published. Photos of them puzzled the expert community a few days ago. These are old anti-aircraft guns, so it is unknown how effective they will be.